(HealthDay News) — Be concerned about the rapidly spreading omicron variant, President Joe Biden urged Americans on Tuesday, but do not be alarmed.
Biden delivered that message to reporters prior to a meeting with his COVID-19 response team, saying he was trying to convey both his administration’s urgency in responding to COVID-19 and the fact that the country now has more tools to fight the virus, the Associated Press reported.
“You can still get COVID, but it’s highly unlikely, very unlikely, that you’ll become seriously ill,” Biden said of vaccinated people, emphasizing that vaccines, booster shots, and new treatments have made the pandemic far less dangerous for vaccinated Americans. But he also had stern words for those who have chosen not to be immunized. “There’s no excuse, there’s no excuse for anyone being unvaccinated,” Biden said. “This continues to be a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
In his remarks on Tuesday, Biden also announced that his administration is doubling its order of the new Pfizer antiviral pill, which was recently authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The first 10 million of 20 million doses will be delivered between January and June. Added to that will be 4 million monoclonal antibody and convalescent plasma treatments, available to Americans by the end of this month, the AP reported.
Biden also talked about easing testing shortages and keeping schools open. He said he understands that the testing issues are frustrating. Over the holidays, people waited in long lines to get tests. The testing spike was spurred by omicron, people wanting to travel this holiday season, and those wanting to return to school.
In December, Biden announced that his administration will soon make 500 million rapid antigen tests available free to Americans who want them, but it will take weeks or months before they are available. Private insurers will be required to cover the cost of at-home tests starting later this month.